Newly revealed video footage published Tuesday appeared to negate claims by a senior police official that he had not fled the scene of a deadly stabbing, showing him immediately driving away from the incident rather than securing the site, as he maintained.
Jamal Hakrush, the country’s top Arab police officer, was placed on leave Monday after Haaretz published video footage showing him rushing away from the scene of a stabbing in Kafr Kanna in September 2020 and stumbling over the victim who was lying in a stairwell.
Hakrush — a deputy commissioner who headed a unit tasked with fighting crime in the Arab Israeli community — insisted that he had acted correctly, telling the Kan public broadcaster Monday evening that he had left the building in order to “secure the location” and to preserve the crime scene as “sterile.”
Hakrush said that, as a police officer, his primary concerns were to ensure that the criminal behavior did not continue and to detain the suspect while summoning backup.
But new video published by Haaretz on Tuesday purports to show Hakrush’s vehicle exiting the scene of the crime exactly one minute after he was seen leaving the building — before the attacker was arrested or the wounded man taken to the hospital, where he was declared dead.
The footage from September 12, 2020, shows Hakrush’s vehicle exiting the parking lot as other people carried the wounded man, Ghazi Amara, to a car to take him to the hospital.
Haaretz on Tuesday also published new bodycam footage captured by police officers who later arrived at the crime scene to detain the stabber, showing them reacting with confusion after being informed that Hakrush had been there but left.
One woman tells officers that Hakrush, who was off duty during the incident, had been at the Kanna Iron plant to pay a bill and had left.
“By coincidence he saw the whole thing happen in front of him,” the woman tells the police officer. “He saw the stabbing?” the officer asks her. She replies that he was at the scene, but did not see the actual stabbing take place.
Further bodycam footage shows the police officer asking a second officer about Hakrush’s presence. “Where is he? He was here, he was at the incident, according to what the witnesses said,” the second officer says.
Hakrush is seen returning to the scene about 10 minutes later, after police have detained Fadi Amara, Ghazi’s uncle, who had locked himself inside the kitchen following the stabbing.
Hakrush tells the officers that he had been there earlier to pay a bill.
Following publication of security camera footage Monday showing Hakrush tripping over an injured Ghazi on his way out of the building, Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai ordered an independent probe of the matter and Hakrush was placed on leave.
Hakrush told reporters Monday evening that he trusts authorities to clarify the matter and that he intends to continue serving in the police.
According to reports, senior police officers knew about the security camera footage of Hakrush, yet no action was taken regarding the incident until it was reported in the media on Monday. Public Security Minister Omer Barlev instructed Shabtai to ensure that the probe looks into those allegations as well.
A statement from Barlev’s office said he had told Shabtai to clarify who knew what and when, how high up the command structure the incident was known, and if any measures had been taken.
According to Channel 13 news, among those who knew about Hakrush’s actions were staff in the office of former acting police chief Motti Cohen, as well as in the police spokesperson’s office. The Kan public broadcaster cited sources saying that both Cohen and Northern District Commander Shimon Lavi had viewed the security camera footage.
Senior police officials were quoted as saying that they were shocked by the report, with some even insisting that Hakrush could not continue to serve in the police in light of it.
“It is expected of such a senior officer to at least provide assistance to the wounded — this is not behavior that is expected of a police officer,” one senior officer told Haaretz.